The breaks that made my career whole – Success story of Archana Dhakappa

The first major break of my career came when I was newly married and had finished five-and-a-half years of work. My immediate supervisor was uncooperative, and my mother wasn’t keeping well. These circumstances compelled me to resign. In retrospect, it was a good decision, though at the time I braced myself for tough times ahead. It took three months for my mother to return to good health.
Free from familial concerns, I started looking for a job, only to realize that I had taken off three months too many. I gave multiple interviews and flew across cities to first land myself a job better than the one I quit and then to land myself any job. Interviews were flowing in, offer letters were not! I realized that the route back to work was long, even if the break was a short one. Fearful that the break would wreak havoc on my entire career, I was preparing to accept my fate, which had other designs. I understood the meaning of the adage ‘the harder you try, the luckier you get’ when I received the offer letter from HGS. I vented out a sigh of relief as I showed the letter to my mother. But, truth be told, the letter wasn’t the real trophy. In hindsight, this entire phase of quitting-trying-getting rejected-still trying was a great lesson in resilience. It also made me determined to make the best out of the opportunity that stood in my hands, and I have been taking up every opportunity since, all of them in HGS, where I have now completed more than a decade of service, received promotions, made great friends and found my raison d’être. ‘A great place to work’ is a clichéd compliment flaunted in scripted testimonials in most organizations. HGS, for me, is a great place to live. It’s my extended family!
My second break came with motherhood. My supervisor was supportive of my need to stay with my newborn and I was granted an extended maternity leave of six months. And for those six months, my little one became the center of my world and I brought him up on my own because I didn’t want anybody else to have that happiness. Though I had a good support system, I used to constantly question myself if it would be right to leave my child and return to work. I resumed work only to quit the job. Empathizing with my motherly instincts, my boss agreed to let me go in one month’s time which was the notice period. Meanwhile, my husband tried to convince me that the extreme step wasn’t needed. Though I was on notice period, my supervisor continued to keep me engaged at work with short assignments and I was completely enjoying this time. About a month later, he stopped by my workstation to check if I had changed my mind and – believe it or not – by that time I had forgotten I had put down my papers. That’s when I realized, in a bid to prove my dedication towards my child, I was planning to quit the only thing which I considered as my identity at that time- my job. It dawned on me that I had not asked myself if I will indeed be happy travelling on this uncertain path.
Brought up by a single parent, my mother was my role model and my source of inspiration. She never compromised on her life goals and still managed to take care of me and my two siblings the best way any mother could. If I was truly being unfair to myself, how could I be fair to my child? It didn’t have to be either-or. I chose work-and-child and it was perfect that way.
Four years later, I decided to have another child. I was confident that I will be able to handle motherhood and career well this time. But my determination was to be tested soon. My second pregnancy proved to be a difficult one and I was bedridden most of the time. Being sick, tending to a 4-year-old and handling some office work (from home) drove me to depression. I didn’t have a backup nor was my team equipped to share my responsibilities, and my health deteriorated. Fortunately, I did have a healthy baby. Depression continued to haunt me during the six months of maternity leave and I was looking forward to resuming work.
Walking around the office the first day after I got back, I realized there were some organizational changes that impacted my team and my role. Due to this change, my supervisor at that time was under a great deal of stress and she directed that towards me. I was made to feel an unnecessary appendage, and with no defined role in the organization, my confidence crashed. With my motivation levels low, I started looking out for a job.
All the job opportunities that matched my skills and experience either required a lengthy commute or were in a different city. I was desperate to start afresh in HGS as I felt I had lost considerable amount of time. I knocked on many senior management doors to ask for guidance and to look for new opportunities, but nothing materialized. I was frustrated and wanted to quit, yet again. That is when I understood the value of having an open culture. Upon knowing my predicament, the CEO, who was familiar with my work, offered me a role that changed everything.
When I could think clearly, I realized
I was being very critical of myself and took a lot of time to ask for guidance and supportI deserved to be in a job that I wanted just as much as everyone elseI must take the initiative to network and be proactiveI mustn’t be scared or let anyone dictate what I should do in my lifeI must be bold and assertive
These three experiences have helped me shape my career and have widened my horizons. They have molded my personality and made me realize that life offers challenges and lessons, but also opportunities and success. Struggle is inevitable but surrender must never be on the table. The best way to come out of unfavorable life phases is to just show up and try your best. Every Single Day. Because what we do, we are.
I am now working as Lead – Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Communications at Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS).
Please note: The views, opinions and beliefs expressed by the authors in the articles on the blog are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Lean In India.

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